Browser Switch

Browser Switch

I use a personal device to get my work done. To be clear, I use a combination of personal devices. As mentioned before I use an M1 powered MacBook Air, a 12.9” iPad Pro with magic keyboard, and an iPhone 11. At work this makes me a bit of an odd duck. You see, my work doesn’t have a BYOD policy. They just have a policy that work files should not be on personal devices. But, since all of the things I need to facilitate my workflow are in the cloud I can easily use my personal devices to securely access the information while keeping the company’s intellectual property on the company’s chosen storage devices. My last shop was basically the same thing, and it was BYOD and so while it may not be my currently employer’s norm. It is mine.

Because the cloud solutions available today are highly collaborative I get to champion the perspective that as we move forward we should move to be more collaborative.

I like to turn off at the end of the day. To keep separation between work and personal stuff I would segment things between two browsers. Because we use Microsoft’s solutions at work I would use Edge for work things and Safari for my personal life. Safari’s ability to allow biometric login with passwords is well implemented and made logging in to all of my sites as frictionless as possible.

I thought long and hard about how the built in password manager could apply to the work accounts I have to manage across a lot of different systems. Until recently I felt it would work because I couldn’t find a way to keep things separated enough that I could turn off and tune out work when I was at home.

Now, things have changed.

And the change I’m enjoying now will be available this fall when Apple pushes out their next update.

Competing Perspectives

I lean forward when it comes to technology—and just about anything else where I can muster the courage. It helps my PTSD/anxiety to choose the change instead of having it thrust on me.

So when Apple releases its public betas I grab them as soon as I can. Even if I don’t have the strongly recommended device backup, I’m slinging them on my devices to get an early preview of features that help make my life better. In contrast IT departments across the globe tend to take a traditional view of testing features instead of releasing them as soon as the vendor makes them available. This often means that useful features to improve productivity are withheld from the people that need them. XLOOKUP and UNIQUE are two killer formulas in Excel that I allowed me to quickly do some data management faster than my peers.

Sure, beta software can be a bit buggy. I do find myself doing more restarts than with the final builds. Basically, when I’m in beta mode I have to restart my machines about as much as anyone using Windows.

Oh, yeah, that’s still a problem. Last week we had a long session of pushing out a complex solution. You know the type where you grab a conference room for days straight and set it up as a war room. We pushed through all day Tuesday and had an on-tap team member finish his piece at 0100 (Wednesday morning). I was up early and started picking up the next set of steps with the team at 0430. We continued to push through issues all day Wednesday and then a Windows update hit every machine logged in at precisely 5pm forcing them to restart within 15 minutes.

We had momentum and it was lost. I’m sure the vulnerability was critical, but there seems to be little consideration by either IT or Microsoft to the work we had open. To be fair, the IT department pushed the update at the same time people should be wrapped up for the day. So that’s a reasonable compromise I guess.

Microsoft has made some significant strides towards improving the user experience over the years. I’m not sure why moving the start menu to the off-center in Windows 11 took priority over fixing how it does security patches… It’s like the end-user experience they’re trying to address is the sysadmin users. My Apple devices update while I’m sleeping and my files and apps are open exactly where they were prior to the update. I can update on Linux without restarts.

Literally Microsoft’s apps are the only ones that require the user to respond to prompts from each open application in order to apply a security patch. 🤦‍♂️

On the Apple side, the public betas are buggy, but they’re a lot more solid than other systems I’ve used over the years. So even though my machines are production machines, I still find running the public betas to be a better experience than running Windows. With Apple, I know what I’m getting and it rarely includes surprise patches that force my desktop to forget what I was doing.

I also get a really great keynote presentation every year and clear documentation to tell me how the updates are going to improve my life and patch the known vulnerabilities.

Workflow Improvement Achieved

As and end user I have a different perspective of new features compared with system administrators. For me, new features are things that increase productivity. Software engineers have been spending the last several years working to help reduce friction on lots of different workflows. When new features emerge, I see it as workflows getting improved.

Microsoft Edge has an experimental feature for tab groups. In Edge the feature allows the user to collapse a group of tabs and expand them again. Tab groups are color-coded making it super quick and easy to identify each group.

Tab groups are super helpful for compartmentalizing work. The way I did this was to organize tabs for each of the projects/efforts I was contributing to. Project A was colored red and had 6 tabs. Project B was blue and had 4 tabs. Admin was green with 2 tabs. Edge also has a really smart tab hibernation feature so even though the tabs were technically open, they weren’t sucking up system resources.

I would get asked a question about something admin related. A quick click and those tabs expanded to right where I needed to be to address the issue, and I was able to go back to one of the other tabs to keep working. Pretty slick.

Until Edge crashed.

Not a big deal. Even the best software will crash. Most browsers I use these days will have a tab restore feature somewhere in the history management. The problem I faced was that while Edge remembered all the pages but I didn’t have a way to restore the layout. And to be clear. Edge remembered the history of each one of those tabs with the most recent tab I used for navigating taking precedent. This meant I’d have to sort back through which tab I used for which navigation in the history…. Not a pleasant experience.

Those tabs were functioning as my bookmarks/to-do list and I lost all of them. I was going to have to rebuild the whole thing.

So, I decided to give Safari’s tab groups a try. Notice I said Safari’s and not MacOS. That’s because the way the feature is implemented in Safari means that it syncs across all of my devices. Since I had to rebuild I created all the groups/tabs I needed to. Now, when someone asks for something I can easily switch to that tab group—on any device I happen to be using.

If I’m taking notes on the iPad and someone asks for an update on Project A, I can go to the Project A group on Safari on the iPad, grab the info they need and get back to what I was working on. If I add a new tab to Project A and switch to working on the MacBook that new tab is automatically added to the group on the MacBook.

I’m not a mobile-first user, but the fact that this same thing extends to my phone will reduce the barriers I feel with the tiny phone screens.

Super slick.

Other browsers currently have browser syncing to various degrees. Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi all have the ability to do password management and bookmarks across devices, but Safari is the first one I know of that will sync tabs across devices with this much ease.

Thank you Apple. This feature marks a new chapter in my journey of browser use.

  • Netscape Navigator
  • Internet Explorer
  • Firefox
  • Chrome
  • Chromium
  • Vivaldi
  • Edge
  • Safari

I’m glad there’s a lot of good competition in this space. We’ll see where it goes next.